Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

• They appeared,' says Capt. Collins, 'to admire whatever they saw, and after receiving a hatchet (of the use of which the eldest instantly and curiously shewed his knowlege, by turning up his foot and sharpening a piece of wood on the sole with the hatchet) took their leave, apparently well pleased with their reception. The fishing-boats also frequently reported their having been visited by many of these people, when hauling the seine ; at which labour they often assisted with cheerfulness, and in return were generally rewarded with a part of the fish taken. They did not, however, always remain thus tranquil; for, in the course of the narrative, many contests between the natives and settlers are mentioned: but these disagreements are supposed, in almost every instance, to have arisen from provocation given by the convicts.

The first labour in which the convicts were employed was that of building huts; and for this purpose it was found neces. sary to divide them into gangs, and to appoint an overseer to each, who should see that the proper quantity of work was performed. The provisions were distributed by a weekly ration, and to each man were allowed 71b, of biscuit; ilb. of flour ; 7lb. of beef, or 41b. of pork; 3 pints of pease, and 6 ounces of butter. To the female convicts, two thirds of this ration were allowed. This was the full ration, which, in many instances, it became necessary to reduce ; and once, in consequence of the delay of transports with a supply, the convicts were put on an allowance of which flesh meat constituted no part.

The temporary huts in which the colonists lived, for some time after their arrival, were formed principally of the cabbage-tree. With this the sides and ends were filled; the posts and plates being made of the pine ; and the whole was plastered with clay. The roofs were generally thatched with the grass of the gumrush; though some were covered with clay, but several of these failed; the weight of the clay and rain soon destroying them. In a short time, they applied themselves to the burning of bricks; by which their habitations soon became much more lasting and comfortable. The progress of the colony, however, towards that degree of convenience which was within its reach, was greatly impeded by the incorrigible vices of those who principally composed it. Drunkenness, theft, robbery, and unconquerable laziness, continued to mark the character of the great body of the convicts. Though to fly from the colony, and venture into the interior of the country, was inevitable death in the form of famine or of murder, yet, such was the invincible antipathy to labour manifested by some of those people, ghat they often led to the woods ; from which they seldo mi

Eeturned:

returned : some dying of hunger, and some being sacrificed by the natives. Disinclination to labour produced here, as elsewhere, its natural effect-robbery.

In the month of * May, a lad of seventeen years of age was tried, convicted, and executed, for breaking open a tent belonging to one of the transport-ships;- several others were taken into custody in that month for various thefts and burglaries, and two were afterward tried and executed. One of these had absconded, and lived in the woods for nineteen days, subsisting by what he was able to procure by nocturnal depredations among the huts and stock of individuals. His visits for this purpose were so frequent and daring, that it became absolutely necessary to proclaim him an outlaw.-By the negligence of one of those fellows who had been entrusted with the care of the cattle, the bull and four cows were lost; he left them in the fields, and returned to his hut to dine; and in the mean time they either strayed away or were driven off by the natives. Five years elapsed before these cattle were discovered, wild, at a considerable distance up the country, and greatly multiplied.

In November 1788, a new settlement was established at the head of the harbour. It consisted of ten convicts and a few marines, who were fixed on a spot of rising ground which they called Rose Hill. The soil at this place was of a stiff clayey nature, free from the rock which covered the surface of Sydney Cove, was well stocked with timber, and not obstructed with underwood. This settlement was speedily augmented, and throve well.

The perpetration of crimes, chiefly theft and robbery, had become so prevalent before twenty months had passed since the colony was established, that it was necessary to think of a system of police. A plan was presented to the governor, by a convict, which with some improvements was adopted on the 8th of August 1789. The following are the heads of the arrangement :

• The settlement was divided into four districts, orer each of which was placed a watch consisting of three persons, one principal and two subordinate watchmen. These, being selected from among those convicts whose conduct and character had been unexceptionable since their landing, were vested with authority to patrole at all hours in the night, to visit such places as might be deemed requisite for the discovery of any felony, trespass, or misdemeanor, and to secure for examination all persons that might appear to be concerned therein; for which purpose they were directed to enter any suspected hut or dwelling, or to use any other means that might appear expedient. They were required to detain and give information to the nearest

* The narrative commences with January 1788.

S 3

guards guard-house of any soldier or seaman who should be found straggling after the taptoo had been beat. They were to use their utmost endeavours to trace out offenders on receiving accounts of any depreda. tion; and in addition to their night duty, they were directed to take cognizance of such convicts as gained, or sold or bartered their slops or provisions, and report them for punishment. A return of all occurrences during the night was to be made to the judge-advocate; and the military were required to furnish the watch with any assist. ance they might be in need of, beyond what the civil power could give them. They were provided each with a short staff, to distinguish them during the night, and to denote their office in the colony; and were instructed not to receive any stipulated encouragement or reward from any individual for the conviction of offenders, but to ex. pect that negligence or misconduct in the execution of their trust would be punished with the utmost rigour. It was to have been wished, that a watch established for the preservation of public and private property had been formed of free people, and that necessity had not compelled us, in selecting the first members of our little police, to appoint them from a body of men in whose eyes, it could not be denied, the property of individuals had never before been sacred. But there was not any choice. The military had their line of duty marked out for them, and between them and the convict there was no description of people from whom overseers or watchmen could be provided. It might, however, he supposed, that among the convicts there must be many who would feel a pride in being distin. guished from their fellows, and a pride that might give birth to a returning principle of honesty. It was hoped that the convicts whom we had chosen were of this description ; some effort had become ndo cessary to detect the yarious offenders who were prowling about with security under cover of the night; and the convicts who had any property were themselves interested in defeating such practices. They promised fidelity and diligence, from which the scorn of their fellow-prisoners should not induce them to swerve, and began with a confidence of success the duty which they had themselves offered to undertake.'

A species of disturber now infested the colony, against which the vigilance of a police could not guard. Rats, in immense numbers, had attacked the provision-stores, and could be counteracted only by removing the provisions from one store to another. When their ravages were first discovered, it was found that eight casks of flour were already destroyed by these vermin. Such of these animals as escaped the dogs, which were set upon them, flew to the gardens of individuals; where they rioted on the Indian corn that was growing, and did considerable mischief.

In reading this account of the South Wales Colony, we are too frequently shocked with the most melancholy, narratives of extreme suffering from want of provisions. In April 1790, the weekly allowance to each male convict was no more than dour 22lb. rice alb. pork 21b.

The

The following statement conveys a dreadful idea of the wretched condition to which those unhappy people must have been reduced by this scarcity:

• It was naturally expected, that the miserable allowance which was issued would affect the healths of the labouring convicts. A circumstance occurred on the 12th of this month, (May 1790,) which scemed to favor this idea : an elderly man dropped down at the store, whíther he had repaired with others to receive his day's subsistence, Fainting with hunger, and unable through age to hold up any longer, he was carried to the hospital, where he died the next morning. On being opened, his stomach was found quite empty. It appeared, that not having any utensil of his own wherein to cook his provisions, por share in any, he was frequently compelled, short as his allowance for the day was, to give a part of it to any one who would supply him with a vessel to dress his victuals; and at those times when he did not choose to afford this deduction, he was accustomed to eat his rice and other provisions undressed, which brought on indigestion, and at length killed him.

Several transport-ships arriving about this time put an end to the sufferings of the colonists from hunger: but, in some of those transports, calamities perhaps more dreadful than hunger itself were found to exist. Of the arrival of the Neptune and Scarborough, the following account is given :

« On the evening of Monday the 28th of June, the Neptune and Scarborough transports anchored off Garden Island, and were warped into the cove the following morning.

. We were not mistaken in our expectations of the state in which they might arrive. By noon the following day, two hundred sick had been landed from the different transports. The west side afforded a scene truly distressing and miserable ; upwards of thirty tents were pitched in front of the hospital, the portable one not being yet put up; all of which, as well as the hospital and the adjacent huts, were filled with people, many of whom were labouring under the complicated diseases of scurvy and the dysentery, and others in the last stage of either of those terrible disorders, or yielding to the at. tacks of an infectious fever.

• The appearance of those who did not require medical assistance was lean and emaciated. Several of these miserable people died in the boats as they were rowing on shore, or on the wharf as they were lifting out of the boats; both the living and the dead exhibiting more horrid spectacles than had ever been witnessed in this country. All this was to be attributed to confinement, and that of the worst species, confinement in a small space and in irons, not put on singly, but many of them chained together. On board the Scarborough a plan had been formed to take the ship, which would certainly have been attempted, but for a discovery which was fortunately made by one of the convicts (Samuel Burt) who had too much principle left to enter into it. This necessarily, on board that ship, occasioned much future circumspection; bụx Captain Marshall's humanity considerably S4

lessened lessened the severity which the insurgents might naturally have expected. On board the other ships, the masters, who had the entire direction of the prisoners, never suffered them to be at large on deck, and but few at a time were permitted there. This consequently gave birth to many diseases. It was said, that on board the Neptune several had died in irons; and what added to the horror of such a circumstance was, that their deaths were concealed, for the pur. pose of sharing their allowance of provisions, until chance, and the offensiveness of a corpse, directed the surgeon, or some one who had authority in the ship, to the spot where it lay.

The horrors of the slave-trade vanish before this picture !-but it will be grateful to the reader to learn that care was taken to transmit to government an account of those dreadful circumstances, verified on oath. Have the men who were answerable for them been punished ?

Norfolk Island, to which New South Wales was a mothercountry, must have been generally more liable than that colony to suffer from scarcity. The settlers there, however, sometimes obtained a temporary supply from a source which was unknown in Sydney Cove.

The supply of provisions,' Mr. Collins tells us, which was dispatched in the Justinian and Surprise, reached them at a critical point of time, there being in store on the 7th of August, when they ap. peared off the island, provisions but for a few days at the ration then issued, which was three pounds of flour and one pint of rice ; or, in licu of flour, three pounds of Indian meal or of wheat, ground, and not separated from the husks or the bran. Their salt provisions were so nearly expended, that while a bird or a fish could be procured no salt meat was issued. The weekly ration of this article was only one pound and an half of beef, or seventeen ounces of pork. What their situation might have been but for the providential supply of birds which they met with, it was impossible to say; to themselves it was too distressing to be contemplated. On Mount Pitt they were fortunate enough to obtain, in an abundance almost incredible, a species of aquatic birds, answering the description of that known by the name of the Puffin. These birds came in from the sea every evening, in clouds literally darkening the air, and, descending on Mount Pitt, deposited their eggs in deep holes made by themselves in the ground, generally quitting them in the morning, and returning to seek their subsistence in the sea. From two to three thousand of these birds were often taken in a night. Their secking their food in the ocean left no doubt of their own flesh partaking of the quality of that upon which they fed; but to people circumstanced as were the inhabitants on Norfolk Island, this lessened not their importan ce; and while any Mount Pitt birds (such being the name given them) were to be had, they were eagerly sought.'

The first settler in this country who declared himse lf able to live on the produce of his farm, without any assistance from the siores, was James Ruse; who, in April 1799, relinquished

his

« AnteriorContinuar »